One of the nation’s top propagators of conspiracies and fake news was permanently banished from Twitter this week.
While Alex Jones had built a following of about 900,000 on Twitter and was founder of InfoWars, with 10 million visits, little, if any, value can be found in his views.
Jones is currently active on Facebook; his personal suspension there recently expired. Apple, YouTube and Spotify also permanently removed material Jones had published.
Two problems arise in considering Jones, whose tactics exemplify fake news.
In using media platforms, he was exercising free speech with his endless rants about conspiracies. He made claims the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 and the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018 were false flag operations engineered by gun control advocates.
Those claims have been proven false and six families of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting as well as an FBI agent who responded to the attack have filed a defamation lawsuit against Jones for his role in spreading conspiracy theories about the shooting.
Those claims and others were unfounded and hurtful to many who suffered as a result of the murderous rampages, and Jones never presented evidence to substantiate what unfolded in the schools.
Reporters have an obligation to ask questions and examine facts to provide the public with legitimate information. While anyone has the right to question any situation, Jones used various platforms to spread fake news to hundreds of thousands.
Some people will be upset that Jones has been banned from sites such as Twitter, which is a private company that offers a platform reaching around the world. David Greene, civil liberties director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation noted that while high-profile cases of highly-offensive content being taken down gets a lot of attention, content moderation silences voices worldwide struggling to be heard.
Greene certainly offers a thought worth pondering. In the United States, the freedom to question and discuss views is a foundation of American life. Nevertheless, internet-based platforms — for all the good they provide — contain a lot of questionable and downright false spins that blur fact and fiction.
Established news organizations are committed to reporting on communities and the nation through a series of checks and balances verifying information prior to placing it in print and online.
Jones in many respects was simply an entertainer, but he delved into an area where truth took a backseat to baseless conspiracies at the cost of misleading others.
News and opinion have an important place in leading discussions on topics that matter in our lives. The free-flowing digital platforms are generally a healthy part of reaching audiences. Irresponsible behavior, however, is a reason to pull the plug on the purveyors of fake news like Jones.